Selectmen took up a resident's email complaint on Jan. 7 that accused board member Stephen Campbell of "going after the school budget" during Budget Committee meetings.
The email, sent to Chairman Pat Hargreaves by resident Mark Hillner, slammed Campbell for "using his personal philosophy as justification" for his decisions as a Selectmen's representative to the committee.
"I believe either you made a terrible appointment or Mr. Campbell is out of control," Hillner said in the message. "We will get nothing passed in our town if such an adversarial atmosphere is allowed to exist. Both sides of the street need to work together."
Countering the claims, Campbell, a 16-year veteran of the Budget Committee, said that he believes that he reviewed the school budget the same way the majority of the school committee reviewed the town budget.
One of the amendments that Campbell proposed was to eliminate two or three positions at a cost of $150,000. He compared the cuts to the three positions removed on the town side, saying that it was "not a big deal" to ask the school side to make similar cuts.
Campbell's motion failed 6-3, with Campbell and committee members Patrick McDougall and Dane Hoover in the minority.
He also moved to cut $240,000 geared toward future work at Salem High School, claiming the district had provided "insufficient information" on how the money would be spent and arguing later it should be a separate warrant article.
Campbell said that the school side came in with a 2 percent increase in their budget, and they were projecting 3.9 percent less students.
"I think the general philosophy of trying to get the tax rate down was fully represented by my questions, by my motions," Campbell said. "And I have no apologies for that."
He said that despite all of his questions, the committee reviewed $62 million in less than five hours.
Hargreaves backed up his appointment of Campbell to the Budget Committee.
"I appointed Selectmen Campbell to that position because I thought that he would look out for the best interest of the town of Salem and its residents," he said.
Selectman Jim Keller said that he has also received calls and emails giving negative feedback to Campbell's work on the Budget Committee.
"The feedback I got was folks felt as though you were leading discussions about budgets with respect to the school which may or may not represent how we feel," he said.
Campbell argued that he believes he represented the majority of the Selectmen, despite some members not agreeing with the cuts to the town budget.
Selectman Mike Lyons spoke about how he handles working as a Selectmen's representative, saying that he never tries to lead the discussion.
Hargreaves received an initial email from Hillner on Dec. 15 before forwarding it along to the other board members.
Hillner also said in the message that he would not vote for any incumbent who supports Campbell's actions. He closed the message by saying that he has never before emailed a member of town government.
The matter was pushed until after the holiday season to be discussed by the board.